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We have been digitising copies of the LNWR Officer’s Meeting Minutes. Some parts are fascinating and make for informative reading whilst some are occasionally amusing. For instance throwing stones at a LNWR Train was considered to be a greater offence than derailing a Great Western engine. In the Minutes of the Officer Meeting for 20th August 1867 it was recorded:
Schoolboy Dennis Lane was fined 10 shillings with 4 shillings costs on 2nd for throwing stones from Kings Road Bridge.
Whereas in the same minutes Porter Hall on the West London Extension was fined 2 shillings and sixpence for 'throwing a Great Western engine off the line on 20th ultimato'.
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Well, I don't suppose that porter Hall acted deliberately. And he was fined by the company, not the magistrates. Dennis Lane was lucky not to be birched.
"A man would do nothing, if he waited until he could do it so well that no one at all would find fault with what he has done." - Cardinal Newman
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Now there is a term I have not heard for a while, 'birched', and I agree with you Philip that the Dennis Lane was lucky to escape that as well as. I wonder if he was from a 'good family' and that was why he managed to escape a dozen on the backside.
I will have a look in the newspapers post the 20th August 1867 to see if anything flags up.
Doing the newspaper extracts, picking up railway and non railway related items, punishments of the time do seem to have varied, seemingly dependant on the locality with some counties viewing similar crimes as much more serious than others.
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Having read many of these, I am getting the impression that the LNWR was actually quite (relatively) lenient towards employees who made mistakes in the course of their employment. That is, as long as they were not actually incompetent, negligent or wilful.
Nowhere is this explicitly stated, nor would I expect it to be, but there must have been some tacit acceptance that the working conditions sometimes let to people slipping up.